The Physics Department carries out active research in a wide variety of subfields, and undergraduates make important contriibutions to these efforts. It is possible to do research starting on your first day at UVa, and as you learn more physics the opportunities to participate only increase. Students in our BS degree programs are required to complete at least one semester of research, but we encourage all our students to get involved and the only limits on the amount you can do are your time and interest.
Research activities in the department are summarized on our research page, and you can read about an individual professor's research on their faculty page. Our Society of Physics Students maintains a list of faculty who advertise projects for undergraduate students, along with other resources to support a successful experience.
Most students participate in research either through the PHYS 3995 Research course during an academic semester, or as a paid research assistant over the summer. You can also explore volunteering research time during the academic year, or employment through a work-study program. All of these arrangements do require some initiative on your part: if you want to get involved, reach out to a professor you would like to work with and ask! Professors cannot always take on every student who is interested, but they are always happy to hear from you.
The department also offers the course PHYS 3993 Independent Study. This is intended for students who want to learn about a physics topic that isn't covered in one of our classes. It typically consists of directed reading or one-on-one teaching, but it is not intended to substitute for PHYS 3995 Research.